The West Fiords 2003

Skógar and the South-West Coast

Awaiting photo of Skogasfoss From Seljalandsfoss we had about thirty kilometres to do to get to Skógar - all into the wind. A welcome petrol station provided sustinence. We had run out of the biscuits the teachers from Selfoss had kindly given us. I think they had felt sorry for us cycling in the rain - and we had used up all our dried food supplies. Finally after a couple of hours slog we rounded the final hill and there was the mighty Skógafoss waterfall falling straight over the cliff in a long single fall - just as I remembered it from my first Icelandic trip by bus in 1986.

The following morning we investigated the museum a young Italian woman had told us about at Skógar campsite. This was the transport museum, started by, and still run by, Þorður Tomasson, now 82 years old - though looking nearer 70. He was very enthusiastic - we were his guests he said. The café didn't open until 10:30am, so we were to look around the museum until then. The museum depicts the way in which communication, both transportational and telegraphic, has evolved in Iceland over the last 200 years. It was fascinating to see how recently some places were connected to the road network, and how young some of the bridges are. Eventually though, the café opened and we had breakfast.

We walked up to Skógafoss, and up the side. There is a wonderful platform about halfway up on the right. We continuted our walk along the river. This is the path to Fimmvorðuháls. In 1986, I had walked a little way along this path in the evening after the bus dropped me at Skógar. One day I wanted to walk the whole way over to the other side. This long walk would have to wait again for yet another trip.

We descended again and packed the tent. We cycled on towards the east. The wind was still against us and stronger today than yesterday. After a long straight flat section, a long hill loomed. Yes, we had to climb this before we could finally descend into Vík. We headed for the campsite as the rain closed in. Two Dutch girls who had been at Þórsmörk were in the kitchen room there, and so were Wolfgang and Viola from Austria, whom we had met in Þingeyri. They had seen the eclipse from north-east of Akureyri, on the way to Ólafsfjörður, but it had been touch and go with clouds passing by before and after. That evening we went to eat with them and with Birgitt from Chemnitz, only to find the only restaurant in town had just stopped serving food, and although we almost doubled the number of diners, the only option was (an albeit delicious) bread and soup.

The following morning was the day the campsite opened. All the way through our trip we had only had to pay for camping in Reykjavík - all the other campsites were "closed" which meant you could camp for free, use toilets and sometimes the showers. This time I had a shower. The water heater had been on for almost an hour - it was freezing. We spoke with some of the boys who were helping the campsite warden. What did young people do in Vík? They told us they would go elsewhere for higher education - to Reykjavík or Selfoss. Would they come back, I asked? Of course, one of the boys replied. The other was less sure. I somehow doubted they would, having had a taste of cosmopolitan Reykjavík.

We also spoke with Jan, a Dutch cyclist, who, every three or four years, took six months off his job as a computer specialist to travel - by bike. A good deal if you can get it, we thought. He told us of his ten trips so far to Iceland, including when he found a farmworker who had fallen in a glacial river some while before. He helped him out and stayed with him until he died of hypothermia while someone else went for help. A sobering thought - Iceland can be a very unforgiving place at times.

The bus came, the two Dutch girls headed off east. We ate breakfast in the petrol station café until our bus came too. It was a four-hour journey back to Reykjavík - the weather was pleasant and sunny when we arrived.

On our last day in Reykjavík we visited the Landsmuseum - to see the history of viking exploration, the development of maps of Iceland and to see the original saga scrolls. We watched a video of the presentation of these scrolls to the Icelandic people from the Danes in the early 1970's. It was the first Icelandic outside broadcast television programme. The seriousness with which these scrolls were received tells you something about how proud Icelanders are to be an independent nation - to be an independent people.